CAT Exam Pattern

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Updated on
August 2, 2021

CAT 2021 Exam Pattern: Overall & Sectional Composition, Scoring pattern, Weightage, CAT Vs other exams

 

CAT 2021 exam date is November 28, 2021. IIM Ahmedabad will conduct the Common Admission Test (CAT) 2021 in three slots of 2 hours each on the same day. Prof M P Ram Mohan, faculty in Business Policy Area at IIM Ahmedabad is the CAT 2021 exam convener. CAT 2021 exam testing slots are designed to ensure the safety of all stake holders in the ongoing Covid pandemic.

 

Possible Disruptions in CAT 2021 Due to Covid
Prof M P Ram Mohan, Convenor of CAT 2021 has cautioned that the preparation and the conduct of the exam is being done with continued COVID-19 uncertainty. The information provided by the CAT 2021 website is contingent upon the decisions and directions issued from time to time by the Central & State governments, and IIMs. Candidates are advised to regularly check the CAT website for the latest information.

 

The CAT 2021 pattern remains same as per last year test pattern with same number of CAT exam slots, number of questions, time duration. There is also no change in the CAT 2021 testing mode and scoring pattern despite Covid pandemic.

 

CAT exam pattern keeps on getting revamped at least to some extent after each CAT exam. IIM Ahmedabad which is conducting CAT 2021 exam will conduct CAT exam this year as per last year pattern of CAT exam. However, a lot depends upon prevailing Covid situation at the time of CAT exam date.  

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CAT 2021 Exam as announced by IIM Ahmedabad will have following structure and pattern

CAT 2021 Exam Components
CAT 2021 Pattern
Test duration
 2 hrs (120 Minutes)
Test sessions/Slots
 3 (Morning, Afternoon and Evening)
Total questions
 76
Total score
 228
Number of Sections in CAT question paper
 3 (VARC; DILR; QA)
Time Allotted for Each Section in CAT exam
 40 Minutes
Total questions in VARC Section
  26
Total Questions in DILR section
  24
Total Questions in QA section
  26

IIM Ahmedabad will conduct CAT 2021 as a computer based test. As per the revised pattern, CAT 2021 will be divided into 3 sections – VARC, DILR and Quant. Each section is timed with the individual time limit. You need to ensure high score in each of the three sections as there is also a sectional score cut off in IIMs for shortlisting. It will be a computer based test of 2 hours duration on the same date.  

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CAT 2021 Exam Pattern: Key Features
IIM Ahmedabad released the CAT 2021 Notification on August 1, 2021 on CAT official website as well as in News papers. Following are the key features of CAT 2021 exam

  • CAT 2021 Exam date is November 28, 2021
  • CAT is a computer based exam, but it is not an online exam. (Why so? Read on..)
  • Exam is Divided into three sections: VARC; DILR; Quant
  • There are two types of questions in CAT 2021 exam – MCQs and Non-MCQs
  • MCQs have negative marking for wrong answer and Non-MCQs do not carry penalty of negative marking
  • Questions with negative marking (MCQs) are 70% to 75% of total questions
  • You need to choose & click on correct answer out of 4 answer options for MCQ type questions
  • Questions without negative marking (Non-MCQs) are 25% to 30% of total questions
  • Answer must be typed in the given space on computer screen for Non-MCQ.
  • Score awarded for each correct answer: 3 marks
  • Negative marking (Applicable for  wrong answers in MCQs): -1 mark
  • Fixed order of sections to move beginning with section-1: VARC
  • Each section is individually timed. Your time to attempt each section is 40 minutes. You cannot move to other section till individual time of one section is over.  
  • Attempt CAT Mock TestsCAT Sample PapersPrevious CAT Test Papers prepared by MBAUniverse.com to check pattern of CAT Exam 2021 and to  check your preparation level
  • IIMs will release tutorial to understand the format of CAT 2021 Test and question pattern on the CAT 2021 website in mid October, 2021
  • CAT 2021 exam will be held in 158 test cities across the country

Here, you will get complete details about the revised exam pattern of CAT 2021, its sectional composition, scoring pattern, past trends in CAT exam pattern and other key information. MBAUniverse.com has also provided past CAT papers and model papers as per exact CAT test paper to help you assess your preparation. You can attempt each of these papers free of cost.  

Important: Read More on CAT 2021 Articles

CAT 2021 Pattern: 2 Hours Exam with 3 Sections
Since last year, CAT exam is changed to 2 hours exam. Earlier it was of 3 hours duration. Key details are shared below

  • CAT 2021 Exam is of  2 Hours duration like last year.
  • CAT 2021 exam slots are Morning, Afternoon and Evening sessions
  • CAT 2021 Exam will have 76 Questions divided into MCQs and Non-MCQ type questions

The table below shares the CAT exam sectional order from Section-1 to Section-3, number and type of questions in each section, questions with and without negative marking and total maximum marks available for each section for the CAT exam 2021

 

CAT 2021 pattern: Sectional composition for 2 Hours Exam
IIM Ahmedabad is conducting CAT 2021 exam in three slots with 2 hours assigned for each slot.  

 

Last year also CAT was conducted by IIM Indore in three slots of 2 hours duration each due to Covid pandemic situation.  

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CAT 2021 will have the pattern as shown below in the table which shares the CAT exam sectional order from Section-1 to Section-3, number and type of questions in each section, questions with and without negative marking and total maximum marks available for each section

CAT 2021 exam components for 2 hours exam
Total questions
Total MCQs (With negative marking)
Total Non-MCQs (Without negative marking)
Highlights
Section-1: Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)
26
18
8
4 RC Passages with 18 MCQs; VA 8 Non MCQs divided into Para jumbles, Para Summary, and Out of Context Sentences
Section-2: Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)
24
18
6
LR – 10 Ques
DI – 14 Ques
All in Sets of 6 & 4 Qs
Section-3: Quantitative Ability (QA)
26
18
8
High on Arithmetic. Other on Log, Geometry, Roots, Algebra
Total
 76
54 
22 
 

Source: MBAUniverse.com analysis

 

cat exam pattern

 

Section Wise Exam Pattern For CAT 2021: Sections, sub-sections, Expected difficulty level
CAT exam was totally revamped by IIM Ahmedabad in 2015 and since then CAT has followed the same pattern for all the 3 sections. The section wise key features of CAT 2021 sectional exam pattern are:

 

1st Section: Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)

  • Total questions: 26 for 2 hours Test
  • RC passages: 4-5
  • Share of RC Based Questions: 70%
  • Type of RC Based questions: All MCQs with 1/3 negative marking
  • VA questions: 30%
  • Type of VA Questions: Non-MCQs without negative marking
  • LOD: Moderate to Very difficult
  • Section Highlights:
  • No Grammar or vocabulary based questions
  • Verbal Ability questions confines to 3 topics – Jumbled paragraph; Para summary; picking the odd sentence out of the jumbled sentences

2nd Section: Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)

  • Total questions: 24 (For 2 hours Exam)
  • Share of DI questions: 50%
  • Share of LR questions: 50%
  • Type of Questions: MCQs: 70%; Non-MCQs: 30%
  • LoD: Moderate to difficult
  • Section Highlights:
  • Questions appear in set of 4
  • Time crunch is faced by test takers as questions are more time consuming

3rd Section: Quantitative Ability (QA)

  • Total questions: 26 (For 2 hours Test)
  • Type of Questions: MCQs-70%; Non-MCQs: 30%
  • LoD: Moderate to difficult
  • Section Highlights:
  • More questions are on Arithmetic – Percentage, Profit & Loss, Time & speed, Work/days, Compound interest

Sub-Sections in CAT Exam
There are sub sections within the 3 sections in revised pattern for CAT exam 2021. For example, the revamped VARC section in CAT consists of Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension sub sections; DILR contains questions on Data Interpretation and Logical reasoning.  

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8 Key Facts about CAT Exam 2021

  1. CAT Test takers cannot leave their seats during the exam.
  2. There may not be any answer choices for some of the Non-MCQs in revised pattern of CAT 2021
  3. Each correct answer in CAT exam will be awarded 3 marks whether it is MCQ or Non-MCQ
  4. CAT remains on the lines of CAT official Mock test released by IIMs a month before the CAT exam.
  5. A few days before CAT 2021 exam date, IIMs release CAT exam day guide, key features of CAT exam, CAT exam navigation guide to answer MCQ and Non-MCQ questions with important instructions
  6. CAT Test Day Workflow for Candidates for slot-1, slot-2 and slot-3 (If any) of CAT exam is published on official CAT website by IIMs
  7. IIMs also release the CAT exam day important Do’s and Don’ts. It includes how to get ready for CAT exam day, and how to go through the key activities from the time of entering the CAT exam centre to leaving the testing hall.
  8. No candidate is allowed to wear jackets, jewellery, shoes, watch or carry the mobile phone, bag, wallets, electronic gadgets, stationary items inside the CAT testing hall.

CAT exam Pattern from 2015 to 2019: 3 Hours Exam
From 2015 to 2019 IIM-CAT remained a three hour exam and was conducted in two slots on the same day. Following CAT pattern was followed from 2015 to 2019

Section as per CAT exam Pattern
Total questions
Total MCQs (With negative marking)
Total Non-MCQs (Without negative marking)
Total maximum marks
Section-1: Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension (VARC)
34
24 to 27
7 to 10
102
Section-2: Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning (DILR)
32
24
8
  96
Section-3: Quantitative Ability (QA)
34
23 to 27
7 to 11
102

cat exam pattern

 

CAT 2021: Computer Based Exam but Not Online Test
Is the CAT online test? Responding to this query IIMs respond that CAT paper pattern is computer based but CAT is NOT online test. Regarding the exam pattern of CAT, IIMs clarify “CAT is not an online exam. It is a digital or Computer Based Test (CBT); not an Internet-Based Test (IBT); that is, a candidate will not take the exam on an internet site. Instead of reading the questions in a paper booklet and darkening the ovals on the answer-sheet, a candidate will read the questions on a computer terminal and choose an answer by clicking on the correct option.”

 

So, the CAT exam pattern 2021, despite being a computer based exam, is not an online exam. Sharing the key difference and USPs of CAT exam pattern, IIMs further elaborate “In the computer-based format, the candidate reads a question on a computer terminal and clicks on the correct answer. Additionally, the timer on the computer screen tells you the remaining time to complete the current section.”

 

After the major transformation of going green in 2009, CAT exam structure and pattern has been revised number of times in terms of number of sections, number of questions, time duration, difficulty level, type of questions, scoring pattern and testing window.  IIM Ahmedabad which conducted Common Admission Test (CAT) in 2015, brought about number of changes in CAT exam pattern increasing the number of CAT sections from 2 to 3; introducing Non-MCQs.  After that CAT exam pattern has stabilized to a great extent. The exam is also now held in a single day as against a long testing window of 30-40 days. 

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CAT Vs Other Top MBA Entrance Exams: Comparative Analysis
In view of prevailing Covid pandemic situation, CAT exam pattern 2021 Vs other exams is shared as under

 

CAT 2021 Vs XAT 2022
IIM CAT 2021 and XAT 2022 have many similarities which give the opportunity to the candidates to synchronise their sectional and overall exam preparation. A comparative analysis between both the exams is shared below

Component
 IIM CAT 2021
XLRI - XAT
Total questions
76
100
Overall time limit to attempt the exam
 2 hours
3 hours
Type of questions
MCQs, and Non-MCQs
MCQs
Answer options for each MCQ
4
5
Marks awarded for each correct answer
3
1
Negative marking
MCQs with 1/3 negative marking; No negative marking for Non-MCQs
75 MCQs with 1/4 negative marking; No negative marking for 25 MCQs on GK
Exam difficulty level
Comparatively high
High
Number of sections
3
3 (Main sections)
1 (GK score not counted)
Name of section-1 with number of questions
Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension -26
English Language & Logical Reasoning- 26
Name of Section-2 with number of questions
Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning-24
Quantitative Ability & Data Interpretation- 28
Name of Section-3 with number of questions
Quantitative Ability-26
Decision Making-21
Facility to choose order of sections
No, has to follow pre defined sectional order
Any question from any section within overall time limit
Individual Sectional time limit
Each section with 40 Minute time limit
No
Top MBA colleges accepting exam score
20 IIMs, FMS, MDI, SPJIMR, IMI, IITs, XIMB
XLRI, SPJIMR, IMT, TAPMI, XIMB

CAT 2021 Vs NMAT 2021
IIM CAT 2021 and NMAT by GMAC have many similarities which give the opportunity to the candidates to synchronise their sectional and overall exam preparation. A comparative analysis between both the exams is shared below:

Component
 IIM CAT 2021
NMAT Exam Pattern 2021
Total questions
76
108
Overall time limit to attempt the exam
 2 hours
 2 hours
Type of questions
MCQs and Non-MCQs
All MCQs
Answer options for MCQs
4
5
Marks awarded for each correct answer
3
1
Negative marking
MCQs with 1/3 negative marking; No negative marking for Non-MCQs
No negative marking
Exam difficulty level
Comparatively high
Moderate
Number of sections
3
3
Name of section-1 with number of questions
Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension: 26
Language Skills-36
Name of Section-2 with number of questions
Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning:24
Logical Reasoning-36
Name of Section-3 with number of questions
Quantitative Ability: 26
Quantitative Skills-36
Facility to choose order of sections
No, has to follow pre defined sectional order
Yes, but once chosen has to follow
Individual Sectional time limit
Each section with 40 minute time limit
Yes, varying time limit of 28 minutes to 62 minutes
Top MBA colleges accepting exam score
20 IIMs, FMS, MDI, SPJIMR, IMI, IITs, XIMB
NMIMS, VIT, XIMB

CAT 2021 Vs SNAP 2021
CAT 2021 and SNAP have many similarities which give the opportunity to the candidates to synchronise their sectional and overall exam preparation. A comparative analysis between both the exams is shared below

Component
IIMs CAT 2021
SNAP 2021
Total Questions
76
60
Overall Time Limit to Attempt the Exam
 2 hours
 1 hour
Type of Questions
MCQs, non MCQs
60 MCQs
Answer Options for MCQs
4
 4
Marks Awarded for each Correct Answer
3 for All questions
 1 for all questions
Negative Marking
MCQs with 1/3 negative marking;
25% for all questions
No negative marking for Non-MCQs
NA
Exam Difficulty Level
Difficult
Moderate
Number of Sections
3
3
Section-1: Name and Number of Questions
Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension: 26
General English, RC,VR,VA-15
Section-2: Name and Number of Questions
Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning:24
Analytical & Logical Reasoning-25
Section-3: Name and Number of Questions
Quantitative Ability:26
Quant, DI, Data Sufficiency-20
Facility to Choose Order of Sections
No, has to follow pre defined sectional order
Yes, any question from any section within overall time limit
Individual Sectional Time Limit
Each section with 40 minute time limit
No
Top MBA Colleges Accepting Exam Score
20 IIMs, FMS, MDI, SPJIMR, IMI, IMT, IITs, TAPMI, XIMB and hundreds of other B-schools. Read More
SIBM Pune, SCMHRD Pune, SIIB Pune, SIBM Bangalore & all other Symbiosis institutes. Read More

IIMs CAT Vs MAT
CAT 2021 and MAT have many similarities which give the opportunity to the candidates to synchronise their sectional and overall exam preparation. A comparative analysis between both the exams is shared below

Component
 IIM CAT 2021
MAT
Total Questions
76
200
Overall Time Limit to Attempt the Exam
 2 hours
 2½ hours
Question Format
MCQs, and Non-MCQs
All MCQs
Answer Options for MCQs
4
 4
Marks Awarded for Each Correct Answer
3
 1
Negative Marking
MCQs with 1/3 negative marking; No negative marking for Non-MCQs
0.25 mark
Exam Difficulty Level
Difficult
Easy to Moderate
Number of Sections
3
5
Section-1: Name and Number of Questions
Verbal Ability & Reading Comprehension:26
Language Comprehension: 40
Section-2: Name and Number of questions
Data Interpretation & Logical Reasoning:24
Intelligence & Critical Reasoning: 40
Section-3: Name and Number of Questions
Quantitative Ability:26
Data Analysis & Sufficiency: 40
Section-4: Name and Number of Questions
Not Applicable
Mathematical Skills: 40
Section-5: Name and Number of Questions
Not Applicable
Indian & Global Environment: 40
Facility to Choose Order of Sections
No, should follow pre defined sectional order
Yes, any section/question within overall time limit
Individual Sectional time limit
Yes, each section with 40 minute time limit
No, Candidate to complete the test in 150 minutes
Top MBA colleges accepting exam score
20 IIMs, FMS, MDI, NITIE, SPJIMR, IMI, IMT, IITs, TAPMI, XIMB and hundreds of others
Christ University, NDIM, DSIMS, IPE, IESMCRC, FIIB among 600 MBA colleges

CAT Exam: Key Trends since Computerization
CAT Exam over the past 11 years, since it was computerised in 2009, has gone for perceptible changes. CAT paper pattern prior to 2009 was paper-pen based. CAT exam format was changed from paper based exam to CAT computer based test in 2009. Even after that CAT paper pattern continued changing from 3 sections to 2 and then CAT exam again switched to 3 sections in 2015. Since then CAT is following similar pattern. CAT exam pattern over the years with changes in test duration, sectional composition and overall number of questions is as under.

Year
Total No of Qs
VA 
DI-LR
Quant
Difficulty level
Q break up
CAT 2021
76
VARC-26; RC-16 to 18 MCQs; Verbal 8-10 Non-MCQs
DILR-24; DI-12; LR-12
QA total Qs-26; 18 Non-MCQs; 8 Non-MCQs
Moderate to High
On Last Year pattern; VARC expected bit more difficult, DILR tricky, QA Moderate
CAT 2020
76
VARC-26. RC-18, (All MCQs), Verbal-8 (non MCQs)
DILR-24, DI-14, LR-10, MCQs-18, Non-MCQs-6
QA-Total-26. MCQs 18, Non-MCQs-8
Moderate to High
CAT 2020 was on last year question pattern. Difficulty level went up in each slot from slot-1 to slot-3
CAT 2019
100
VARC-34. RC-24, (All MCQs), Verbal-10 (non MCQs)
DILR-32, DI-16, LR-16, MCQs-24, Non-MCQs-8
QA-Total-34. MCQs 23, Non-MCQs-11
Moderate to High
CAT on last year pattern with changes in number of MCQs & non-MCQs as given section wise
CAT 2018
100
VARC-34. RC-24, (All MCQs), Verbal-10 (2 MCQs, 7 non MCQs)
DILR-32, DI-16, LR-16, MCQs-24, Non-MCQs-8
Total-34. MCQs 22, Non-MCQs-12
Moderate to High
CAT Pattern in the lines of last year with changes in number of MCQs & non-MCQs in each section
CAT 2017
100
VARC-34. RC-24, (All MCQs), Verbal-10 (3 MCQs, 7 non MCQs)
DILR-32, DI-16, LR-16, MCQs-24, Non-MCQs-8
Total-34. MCQs 23, Non-MCQs-11
Moderate
CAT Pattern in the lines of last year with changes in non-MCQs in each section
CAT 2016
100
VARC-34, RC-24, (All MCQs), Verbal-10 (All non MCQs)
DILR-32, DI-16, LR-16, MCQs-24, Non-MCQs-8
Quant-34, MCQ-27, Non-MCQs-7
Moderate to difficult
CAT exam pattern on the same lines as of CAT exam pattern 2015 Non-MCQs in Quant reduced.
CAT 2015
100
VARC -34, RC-24 (MCQs), Verbal-10 (Non MCQs)
DILR-32, DI-16, LR-16, MCQs-24, Non-MCQs-8
Quant-34, MCQs-24, Non-MCQs-10
Moderate to difficult
Time limit increased to 180 minutes; Sectional time constration of 1 hour re-introduced; Non-MCQs without negative marking penalty for wrong answer No questions on error correction and vocabulary.

Will CAT 2021 Structure & Content be Different?
CAT exam pattern in terms of content & question topics may carry slight changes for CAT 2021 exam. The exam has gone with perceptible changes since 2014 not only in CAT structure but also in content.

 

Going by the tradition in changes in different type of questions in CAT, you cannot rule out a different CAT 2021 Exam pattern.  However, despite number of changes brought about during last 6 years in CAT exam, the basics of the CAT exam have not changed. CAT exam pattern since 2015 has remained on the same lines.

 

CAT 2020 exam pattern was changed due to Covid pandemic and the same CAT pattern continues for CAT 2021. It is expected that there could be some minor changes in number and type of questions and their sectional composition in actual CAT paper.  To make sure to bell the CAT 2021 with high score you need to begin your CAT exam preparation 2021 without waiting any longer.  

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FAQs on CAT Exam Pattern

Q. What is CAT 2021 Exam Pattern
Ans. CAT 2021 is a computer based test with 76 questions divided into 3 sections of VARC, DILR and QA

 

Q. What is the CAT 2021 exam date?
A. CAT 2021exam date is November 28, 2021. The exam will be conducted in three slots morning, afternoon and evening

 

Q. Is CAT an online examination?
A. CAT is not an online examination. It is a digital or Computer Based Test (CBT); not an Internet-Based Test (IBT). A candidate will not take the examination on an internet site.

 

Q. During this Corona virus pandemic and lock down will IIMs allow to take the examination from any computer?
A.
The decision will be taken at the appropriate time after reviewing the situation. However, so far the candidates have taken the examination on a workstation assigned at the test centre based on the test cities selected while registering for CAT. The test centre details are printed on the Admit Card.

 

Q. Will IIMs provide some model test to understand CAT exam pattern?
A. Yes, a practice test will be available on the CAT website: www.iimcat.ac.in  in mid October 2021. You can familiarize yourself with the functionality and navigation of the actual exam.

 

Q. How many sections are there in CAT 2021?

CAT 2021 will have three sections:

  • Section I: Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension
  • Section II: Data Interpretation and Logical Reasoning
  • Section III: Quantitative Ability

 

Q. Do the non-MCQ type questions carry equal marks as MCQs?
A. Yes, all questions carry equal marks. However, for non-MCQ type questions, you must type the answer.

 

Q. Can I bring a calculator to the CAT exam centre?
A. No,
Candidates are prohibited from bringing calculators to the testing centre. You may use the onscreen calculator that will be available throughout the exam.

 

Q. How many non-MCQs are there in each section?
A. IIMs do not disclose the number of NON-MCQ questions. They may vary from section to section from year to year.

 

Q. Is there a specific order for answering sections? Can I attempt sections the way I want?
A. Yes, you must answer the sections in a pre-specified order and this order will remain the same for all the candidates. .

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